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Wednesday, 9 September 2009
Page: 9170

Mr ADAMS (11:34 AM) —The honourable member for Gippsland made a speech here and there, not facing up to some of the real problems. I would just like to point out to him that, whereas the Howard government did not do anything, this government has put $2 billion on the table to try to find some solutions. He talked about his own electorate and the significance of his own electorate, but there was nothing about helping to protect and look into the future for the coal and gas industry.

The Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Legislation Amendment Bill 2009 and the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage (Safety Levies) Amendment Bill 2009 propose to amend the Offshore Petroleum Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006 and the Offshore Petroleum Greenhouse Gas Storage (Safety Levies) Act 2003. They have been introduced as a result of recommendations from the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Primary Industries and Resources report entitled Down under: Greenhouse gas storage, which was on the review of the draft of the Offshore Petroleum Amendment (Greenhouse Gas Storage) Bill. I commend the minister, who is with us, for giving the committee the opportunity to do that work. I think the parliament and the country are well off for that look at the legislation occurring. It is a shame that more of the legislation that comes before the parliament does not get to the committee system. I think we would have better legislation if it did.

During the inquiry the committee looked to ascertain whether the bill established legal certainty for access and property rights for the injection and long-term storage of greenhouse gases in offshore Commonwealth waters, which of course is pretty significant for the Gippsland electorate and the offshore areas of it. I commend the honourable member for Gippsland for taking an interest, but I think he should get totally behind these bills and totally behind the issue of solving the problems of greenhouse gas storage. Eighty per cent of the energy of Australia comes from coal, and we need to make sure that we have the solutions and can take advantage of the opportunities that coal presents our country.

The legislation seeks to provide a regulatory framework and regime that will enable management of GHG injection and storage activities in a manner which will respond to community and industry concerns. It will provide a predictable and transparent scheme to manage the interaction between GHG injection and storage operators with pre-existing and co-existing rights including, but not limited to, those of petroleum and fishing operators, should these come into conflict. It will also provide certainty for investment in injection and storage activities as well as establish a legal framework that provides a model that can be adopted nationally.

The amendments are technical, with some policy changes which streamline requirements, provide clarification or reduce the overall regulatory burden on industry. These changes result from three reviews of different aspects of the offshore petroleum regulatory system which have been conducted by the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism over the past two years. I must say that I am impressed with the minister’s grasp of the technical side of these bills. It is an area that is very complex.

A number of the changes relate to altered arrangements for pipelines—which, I understand, commence on 1 January 2010. These arrangements will be set out in revised regulations to come into effect next year. They will see pipelines being treated on the same basis as other facilities under the safety regulations. This will see the removal of the pipeline management plans and pipeline safety management plans from regulations. As such, the pipeline safety management plan levy will become a safety case levy. This change in levy arrangements is set out in these bills, with amendments to both the Offshore Petroleum Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006 and the Offshore Petroleum Greenhouse Gas Storage (Safety Levies) Act 2003. The removal of consent to operate a pipeline is part of these overall changes and will also take effect from 1 January 2010.

There are several other changes such as providing an expedited consultation process on the granting of access authorities and making the joint authority the decision maker in relation to the declaration of locations and the granting of scientific investigation consents. These are designed to streamline current arrangements. Moving the power to vary coordinates based on the current datum, from regulations into the act, is also to streamline regulatory processes. This should not slow down the decision-making process by making decisions on the nomination of blocks and declaration of location joint authority matters. These amendments create a consistent and agreed approach on what is a key matter in the development of a petroleum title. I understand from discussions that the ‘datum’ consists of the coordinates of the title and they move in a very slow, small way. But over time, and some of these leases go for decades if not more, then the boundaries of the leases change, thus these amendments deal with these changes.

The changes to the greenhouse gas storage provisions of the act are to remove several inconsistencies and ambiguities arising from amendments made in the Senate. These changes are purely technical and make no policy changes to greenhouse gas storage related operations. I believe these particular changes came about after the Senate made some amendments in the legislation’s passage through that place and, in the interests of bipartisanship, amendment (13) just tidies up the language to make the provisions operate more properly. So the change to penalty provisions in schedule 3 of the act is to make sure that offences can be successfully prosecuted. As they stand, the provisions may mean that intent needs to be proved in order for a prosecution to be successful. This is a difficult task for health and safety provisions. The amendments will remove the need to prove intent. Removal of data management plans and changes to the timing notification of a petroleum discovery reduce some of the regulatory burden on industry.

A few of the other amendments are to make processes clearer or provide national consistency. These include ensuring that any occupational health and safety offences that occurred from 1 January 2005 until the act came into force on 1 July 2008 are covered by transitional provisions, that Western Australian petroleum legislation is included in schedule 3 of the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977 Act and that the maps in the act are updated to show Australia’s new offshore boundaries.

This legislation sets the groundwork for the establishment of a national GHG storage industry in Australia. If these go through successfully with the amendments that tidy the whole thing up, it will allow us to lead the world in the implementation and development of the CCS. A GHG storage industry can only be successful, both commercially and in the mitigation of CO2 emissions, if the technology to capture CO2 is implemented widely. Since the majority of our emissions derive from the coal fired energy generation sector, it is important that this sector begins to make faster headway with regard to capture. It may mean that industries reliant on carbon-intensive energy sources will only remain viable in the long term if they invest in CCS technology. I also think that some of these amendments will help the minister with initiating independent inquiries into operational issues such as the blow-outs that occur within the sector, such as the problem that is occurring in the East Timor Sea with the West Atlas rig, which has had a blow-out. I commend the minister for his efforts to resolve that issue and for his efforts to make sure the environment is affected in the least possible way. I certainly hope that this legislation brings us to a position where we can make sure that we have the powers to investigate and look at the reasons why these issues occur. I believe this legislation will take us into a whole new area of greenhouse gas storage and will encourage investment in the new technology. I commend the bills to the House.